Review Summary: The beginning of a descent into darkness
Jon Nödtveidt - Vocals, lead rhythm and acoustic guitars
John Zwetsloot - Rhythm and classic acoustic guitars
Peter Palmdahl - Bass guitar
Ole Öhman - Battery
Released in 1993, The Somberlain
was the beginning of an important and very influential band who’s career was all too brief. Blending black metal with death metal and adding a bit of melody, Dissection created a sound all their own and built a niche for themselves that few bands have been able to match.
At a time when black metal was coming out of Norway almost exclusively and melodic death metal was in its embryonic stages in Sweden, Dissection combined the two, creating “blackened death metal,” “melodic black metal” or as they would later call it “anti-cosmic metal of death.” Somewhat overshadowed by their next album Storm of the Light’s Bane, The Somberlain
however has a colder more atmospheric sound and functions better as a whole album, it’s a more cohesive effort. While only having eight proper tracks, the three acoustic passages tie the album together perfectly, the final one ‘Feathers Fell’ concluding what is a phenomenal album.
Opening the album is perhaps the fastest song on The Somberlain
‘Black Horizons’ but the band change up speeds well on this track and show their musical dexterity with intertwining guitar riffs that are melodic yet heavy. Jon Nödtveidt has a harsh, raspy voice that while extreme, it is not difficult to decipher what he is saying. The rhythm section is nothing earth-shattering, the drumming is not very complex but it compliments the music well and allows the guitars and vocals to shine.
The first four tracks account for half the running time of the album, songs that are six, seven and eight minutes long but there isn’t a dull moment. The title track is the longest song on here and its also the best with memorable guitar riffs alongside Jon’s growl, this is the perfect blend of black and death metal: satanic lyrics with melodic death metal music. ‘The Somberlain’ contains lyrics that have taken on a new meaning since Jon’s death and foreshadow what was to come: “This beautiful silence, it calls me now”
and “I reach the land of spiritual rest.”
These moments reveal Jon’s preoccupation not really with death, but with the afterlife.
From the artwork (done by Necrolord) you get the feeling that this is something special: a man in a horse-drawn chariot riding through what seems to be a cemetery, done in blackish, bluish hues, everything about this album is perfect. A small complaint about The Somberlain
is the brevity of it, but since every song seems to fit perfectly in its place, it probably was a good idea to leave it that way, better for it to be a few minutes too short and not a few too minutes long.
Although Jon Nödtveidt made some questionable, disagreeable and illegal decisions, his musical talent was undeniable. Jon wasn’t someone who used Satanism as a gimmick, he truly believed what he said in that satanic prayer on ‘The Somberlain’ and it really was part of his beliefs. The trajectory of Dissection may have been cut short because of Jon’s time in prison but when he came out and released their final album, he felt that he had accomplished everything he had set out to do and it was time for a different challenge, who are we to say that he was wrong? He had very strong beliefs and wanted to fulfill his destiny. Jon Nödtveidt was a very talented musician who lived, and ultimately died, by his own convictions, in his mind people who killed themselves because they were depressed were weak. Jon’s suicide wasn’t a way to end everything, it was a new beginning, a new battle to fight and nearly fifteen years before his suicide, his lyrics from ‘In the Cold Winds of Nowhere’ gave us a glimpse into his way of thinking:
Oh this temptation
To end this empty life
In my dreams I saw my real side
Meaning that he believed that there was something on the other side and when he completed the cycle with Dissection, he was ready to move on to bigger, more important things. Hope you found what you were looking for Jon…
In the Cold Winds of Nowhere